• 504 plans ensure students with disabilities have access to learning at school. By evaluating the distribution of 504 plans across the state of North Carolina, we can understand trends to ensure an equitable distribution and equal protection under the law for students with disabilities.

    The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 codified Section 504 which prohibits discrimination based on disability (29 U.S.C. § 701). This marked the first federal civil rights protection for individuals with disabilities in the United States.1 Section 504 ensures that all students receive a free, appropriate public education regardless of disability. Section 504 also guarantees the needs of the disabled are met as adequately as the non-disabled.2 The Office of Civil Rights holds jurisdiction over maintaining school’s compliance.

    Most schools adopt 504 plans to ensure they are in compliance with federal law. A student with an impairment that substantially reduces the student’s ability to access learning in the educational setting is provided a 504 plan. The plan details how a student with a disability or impairment will have access to learning at school. 504 plans provide accommodations and changes to the learning environment to ensure the student can access his or her educational program. Determination of eligibility is made by each school district and depends on the condition of each student. It is important to note that eligibility for 504 plans are more broad that an Individualized Education Program (IEP) where a child must have one or more of the 13 specific disabilities listed in the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA).3

    The following are examples of 504 plans:

    •  A child with dyslexia that might need extra time to take a test
    • A child with asthma may need the flexibility to get up during the middle of instruction to get her inhaler during class
    • A child with ADHD might need
    • A child might have difficulty with written assigments